Why Cultural Intelligence is important and how we can build it

As individuals, education systems, and organisations have increasingly become more connected along with the continuous increase of globalization, which has created a more competitive and dynamic market, the ability to “function effectively in different cultural contexts”, referred to as Cultural Intelligence (CG), has never been as important as it is today [1]. Verghese states that culture is “the lenses through which you look at the world, therefore, culture influences your perspective of the world, and it essentially shapes your psychological make up” [2]. Thus, people’s behaviour will be vastly different depending on their cultural background, and people’s perceptions of that behaviour will differ too, based on their own reference point and core values. Possessing a high CQ is vital in today´s businesses and organisations. Individuals with higher CQ are effectively able to integrate into any environment, as well as they are able to spot cultural variances and adapt their behaviour accordingly [3].

Expanding into global markets is one of the greatest opportunities for growth for new and established organizations.  Due to the world becoming, as mentioned before, more globalized and multicultural, leaders and team members that are culturally intelligent are more likely to flourish [4].  In Australia, for example, 75% of their trade is conducted with countries that do not have English as their first language [5].  Therefore, having organisations with high HQ can efficiently adjust to situations involving diverse or unfamiliar cultures.  Moreover, high levels of productivity, resilience, and the ability to persevere through difficult situations are linked with culturally intelligent individuals.  Since culturally intelligent individuals can function effectively in various cultural contexts, they are easily able to adapt to new, complex, and demanding situations at work [6].

why-cultural-intelligence-is-important-for-success-at-work-and-life
Figure 1. The four capabilities of cultural intelligence by Cultural Intelligence Center

CQ is vital in multicultural dynamics, as research has shown that multicultural groups with low CQ underperform homogenous groups, however multicultural groups with high CQ levels outperform homogenous groups.  Therefore, it is important to know how to shape and advance one´s cultural intelligence.  Scholars have established four main capabilities of developing and building cultural intelligence, which include: drive, knowledge, strategy, and action [7]. Drive encapsulates your curiosity to adapting to new multicultural dynamics, whilst knowledge requires you to understand how cultures are vastly different from each other yet share some commonalities.  Strategy and action both encapsulate your capabilities of managing and adapting to multicultural interactions.  Thus, by being able to harbour these capabilities in the workspace, the likelihood of building a strong, productive, resilient, and successful team vastly increases.

[1] Julia Middleton, “what is Cultural Intelligence?”, Future Learn, February 16th, 2017, from Futurelearn.com (accessed July 9th, 2019).  

[2] RMIT University, (2015). Developing Your Cultural Intelligence (video) Retrieved July 9th, 2019, from YouTube

[3] Anna Azevedo, “Cultural Intelligence: Key Benefits to Individuals, Teams, and Organizations”, American Journal of Economics and Business Administration, no.1 (2018): 53.

[4] David Livermore, “7 Benefits of Improving Your Cultural Intelligence”, American Management Association, February 10th, 2016, from Playbook.amanet.org (accessed July 10th, 2019).

[5] Verghese, T (2016). Why is Cultural Intelligence Important (video) Retrieved July 9th, 2019, from YouTube.

[6] Anna Azevedo, “Cultural Intelligence: Key Benefits to Individuals, Teams, and Organizations”, American Journal of Economics and Business Administration, no.1 (2018): 53.

[7] RMIT University, (2015). Developing Your Cultural Intelligence (video) Retrieved July 9th, 2019, from YouTube

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *